• 2020 GAPNA Pharmacology Conference: Contemporary Pharmacology and Prescribing in Older AdultsJoin us at the 2020 GAPNA Pharmacology Conference:
    Contemporary Pharmacology and Prescribing in Older Adults

    April 14-18, 2020, Honolulu, HI.

    Earn up to 18 CNE hours.


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  • AwardNew for GAPNA members: MCM Education

    GAPNA has partnered with a MCM Education to offer an ongoing series of CNE programs available to GAPNA members. "Diagnosing and Managing Parkinson’s Disease in Older Adults," is the latest program offered.

    Parkinson’s disease (PD) is characterized by both motor and nonmotor symptoms. It is diagnosed based on the presence of two of four motor symptoms including rest tremor, bradykinesia, rigidity, and gait imbalance...

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  • ConventionCALL FOR: Podium and Poster Abstracts

    For the 38th GAPNA Annual Conference
    at the Hyatt Regency
    New Orleans, LA, September 24-26, 2020

    GAPNA members are invited to submit an abstract about their innovative work, that should enrich the APRN's knowledge and/or enhance the care of an older adult.

    Find out more info and deadline dates

  • Poster PresentationONLINE NOW:

    2019 GAPNA Conference Poster Presentations

    Note the latest trends in the care, education, and research of the older adult population.


    View the 2019 Poster Presentations from the Annual Conference!

Promising Blood Test

Blood Test Shows Promise in Predicting Presymptomatic Disease Progression in People at Risk of Familial Alzheimer's

Finding early-stage biological markers of Alzheimer's disease to predict who will and won't progress to dementia is an evolving area of research.

A blood test for the protein neurofilament light chain (NfL) predicted disease progression and brain neurodegeneration in cognitively normal individuals at risk for familial Alzheimer's disease (FAD), a rare, early-onset form, a recent study shows. It is unknown if NfL in blood might help predict onset of the more common, late-onset form of Alzheimer's dementia, as well as other neurodegenerative diseases.

Specialized brain scans and lumbar punctures are used to measure certain changes in the brain and cerebrospinal fluid that occur years before dementia symptoms begin. But these procedures are relatively invasive and expensive, leading researchers to pursue other methods such as blood tests.

To date, the few experimental blood tests most often measure the amyloid protein. In a recent study, Preische and colleagues (2019) examined a different protein, NfL, as a potential blood biomarker.

The researchers analyzed data from 405 participants in the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer Network (DIAN), a global study of families affected by genetic mutations that cause FAD. Participants included 243 people with a genetic mutation and 162 without it.

For a given mutation, symptoms tend to start at about the same age, allowing researchers to calculate the estimated years to symptom onset. Following the participants over a median of 3 years, the researchers found that in mutation carriers, NfL levels in blood began to rise up to 16 years before the estimated age of onset of Alzheimer's symptoms. NfL rate of change accelerated as these individuals got closer to this age.

The researchers found the rate of change in blood NfL predicted Alzheimer's disease progression – in particular, damage to neurons – better than absolute levels of NfL. The higher the NfL rate of change, the closer the individual was to the age when symptoms of dementia were expected to start.

This rate of change of NfL in blood was associated with other Alzheimer's-related brain changes, including an increase in NfL in cerebrospinal fluid in presymptomatic mutation carriers, the researchers showed.

Baseline NfL predicted changes in cortical thinning in the precuneus, a brain region sensitive to Alzheimer's progression (as shown by magnetic resonance imaging), and cognition (as measured by memory tests). This suggests NfL changes in blood reflect NfL changes in the brain.

Further studies could focus on determining the time period during which NfL in blood changes, and whether the results in DIAN participants apply to other people at risk for early-onset Alzheimer's, late-onset Alzheimer's, or other types of neurodegenerative disease.

Preische, O., Schultz, S.A., Apel A., Kuhle, J., Kaeser, S.A., Barro, C., … Dominately Inherited Alzheimer Network. (2019). Serum neurofilament dynamics predicts neurodegeneration and clinical progression in presymptomatic Alzheimer's disease . Nature Medicine, 25(2), 277-283.

Related information from the GAPNA Clinical Research Corner:

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